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Nelson v. Ada County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 17, 2015

ROY LEE NELSON, Plaintiff,
ADA COUNTY, and JOHN DOES I-X, Defendants.


EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The parties have filed their responsive briefing and the matter is ripe for the Court's consideration. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this Motion shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.


Plaintiff Roy Lee Nelson has brought this action against the Defendants Ada County and John Does I-X raising state and federal law based violations of his Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The factual circumstances surrounding Mr. Nelson's claim are that he suffers from a low back condition which required surgery in 2012 resulting in his having difficulty walking without assistance. In the fall of 2013, Mr. Nelson was detained at the Ada County Jail where he was required to wear flip flop sandals instead of tennis shoes and was shackled during transports both of which aggravated his difficulty walking. He alleges the Defendants were aware of his back condition and difficulty walking unassisted but, regardless, still required that he wear the sandals and be shackled. Prior to September 13, 2013, the Defendants provided Mr. Nelson with a wheelchair to use when he made court appearances in order to protect him from a fall.

On September 13, 2013, Mr. Nelson was transported to the Ada County Courthouse for another court appearance. He was again shackled and required to wear flip flop sandals. At this hearing, however, the Defendants denied his request for a wheelchair but did assist him getting into the courtroom. Following the hearing, Mr. Nelson alleges the Defendants again refused his request for a wheelchair but also failed to assist him in exiting the courtroom. This deliberate indifference, he alleges, caused Mr. Nelson to trip and fall hitting his head and causing him to lose consciousness. Mr. Nelson was transported to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical center where it was revealed that he had suffered a large intervertebral disc herniation in his cervical spine. Mr. Nelson alleges the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his need for care of his serious medical condition for well over a month by refusing to provide him with necessary medical treatment and pain medication.

On October 28, 2013, the charges against Mr. Nelson were dismissed and he was released from the Ada County Jail. Mr. Nelson underwent surgery on November 15, 2013 to repair his cervical spine injury. Mr. Nelson has brought this action against the Defendants alleging they failed to properly train, supervise, direct, and/or control their staff responsible for his safety. Specifically pointing to the Defendants' failure to provide him with a wheelchair at the September 2013 court hearing or any assistance when he was not in the wheelchair and requiring that he walk in sandals while shackled. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 22.) The Complaint generally alleges that the Defendants' "conduct and policies as alleged above constitute gross negligence and/or reckless, willful and wanton conduct within the meaning of Idaho Code § 6-904C." (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 23.) Defendant Ada County has filed the instant Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim which the Court now takes up in this Order and finds as follows.


A motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a party's claim for relief. When considering such a motion, the Court's inquiry is whether the allegations in a pleading are sufficient under applicable pleading standards. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) sets forth minimum pleading rules, requiring only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

In general, a motion to dismiss will only be granted if the complaint fails to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted). Although "we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Therefore, "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Caviness v. Horizon Comm. Learning Cent., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 811-12 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

The Ninth Circuit has refined the above pleading standard in regard to its application to the particular § 1983 claim raised in this case to require:

First, to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint... may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively. Second, the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.

Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011); see also A.E. ex rel. Hernandez v. County of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 636 (9th Cir. 2012). Both parties have recognized and cited to this language in their briefing on this Motion. (Dkt. 7, 8.)


Ada County argues the Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because Mr. Nelson failed to specifically identify a policy, custom or practice, and explain how it was the moving force behind a violation of his constitutional right as required for a claim against a governmental entity. (Dkt. 4, 8.) Mr. Nelson maintains he has stated a claim against Ada County alleging actions taken in accordance with established Ada County policy that satisfies ...

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